Monday, May 21, 2012

A Filipino drummer at 'The Greatest Show on Earth'


It’s not only a handful of athletes who will be representing the Philippines at the London Olympics 2012 in July, which the British government and media are understandably hyping up as “the Greatest Show on Earth.”

There’s also a Filipino musical artist who will be part of the opening and closing ceremonies. His name is Jan-Vincent Velazco, and he’s one of the elite drummers playing in the musical extravaganza attached to this festival of sports and athletics.

He had successfully auditioned for this role last year, which means he will be working closely with Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle (of Slumdog Millionaire fame), who’s directing the performance artists for the ceremonial part of the Games.

I met Jan-Vincent for the first time at the London Barrio Fiesta several years ago. At that time, he was a drum student at one of England’s most prestigious institutions, the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. He visited the Philippine Embassy booth on the fair grounds, and introduced himself. After graduating from his consular and diplomatic studies at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, he had worked for some time at the Department of Foreign Affairs. But his true calling was music, and he decided to apply for admission to the Academy. After graduation, he joined different touring bands, got invited to perform with other rock musicians, and for some time now he’s been doing a series of year-round concerts with his new group The Beautiful Game (TBG). Not only does he play other instruments and write music, he’s into a wide range of musical genres as well: rock, metal, progressive rock, indie and electronic.

He also studied at London College where he ob­tained his professional qualification in Graphic and Web Design, and at Westminster College for a postgraduate course in Computer Science. He currently works as a professional 3D artist and graphic designer in London, creating adverts, logos, CD covers, websites and newspaper layouts, as well as artwork for children’s books and brochures. Some of his 3D artwork has been featured on Computer Graphics Society and other CG websites.

Then last year, he was chosen as one of a group of drummers for the Lexus CT 200h “Drum Roll” TV commercial. (There’s a YouTube video of this group practicing at London’s sprawling Bushy Park.) He recently e-mailed me the good news about getting selected as one of the Olympic drum artists who’ll be playing for a global audience of about a billion. Well, I thought it was time his countrymen got to know more about Jan-Vincent Velazco. So I e-mailed him a few questions.

PHILIPPINE STAR: When did you start playing the drums, and who did you play with?

JAN-VINCENT VELAZCO: I started playing the drums at the age of 13. I was with a band composed of school friends and cousins, and we played gigs in small pubs and venues. It was then the height of “Pinoy Rock” when I picked up the sticks and became seriously engrossed with drumming. I studied at the Yamaha School of Music in 1995 with Aji Adriano of the Wuds. At DLSU-CSB in 1996, I played with the college band Rhythmic Circle for two years whilst also playing in an experimental funk band. I gigged relentlessly in clubs in Manila, Makati and Quezon City while also being involved in several other musical projects.

How did you get into the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and how was it like there?

From Manila, I sent a drum demo to the Academy. Two weeks later I got a reply and was told I had passed the audition. A couple of weeks later, I was off to England. At ACM I studied under some of the UK’s top drummers like Pete Riley of Republica, who is also a Mapex and Zildjian endorser, and Mike Sturgis who played for 21 Guns, Asia, Wishbone Ash, Iron Maiden and Psycho Motel. I played with a lot of guitar students at ACM and was frequently asked to jam with them.

Describe your current band and your music projects, apart from the Olympics 2012 assignment.

I helped form the band called The Beautiful Game in 2008. We played at several festivals and opened for well-known bands like Toploader who had that massive single Dancing in the Moonlight. We also played with Reef, The Bluetones, Republica, and Dean Mumford. We have played extensively inside and outside the London circuit, including venues such as the Indigo O2, O2 Academy, Brixton Jamm, The Barfly, Dublin Castle, The Borderline and many others. I am currently working on several other projects and recording for The Beautiful Game with a top producer in London, and we will also be playing with Toploader. My other band Medusa also played with Lauren Harris’ band. She’s the daughter of Iron Maiden guitarist Steve Harris. Our video Tinkerbell was featured in the Daily Star, and was mentioned on several other websites as well. I also play in a 2-piece drum and bass progressive rock band, Control.

Many of your photos sport various brands. Are you getting to be commercially successful?

Playing and touring everywhere gave me a lot of exposure. Pretty soon, I started getting endorsements from companies like Protection Racket Case, Serial Drummer, Drum Star Wear, Cympad, DLC Keys and Pellwood Drumsticks, which also designed my own signature drumsticks.

How many drummers have been chosen for the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics 2012, how many applied, and what was the selection process?

As far as I know, there are hundreds of drummers, and about a thousand more other performers which include dancers. The audition process was quite long and had two parts. Basically it was about choreography and rhythm and how we react to different scenarios, music, how to follow directions and interact with other performers.

How does it feel to have been chosen as one of the lucky groups of drummers for this Olympiad?

It’s surreal. Playing the drums in front of millions of people is going to be a nerve-wracking but amazing experience. They say this is “The Greatest Show on Earth” and for me that even makes it more exciting. This is definitely going to be one of my best gigs to date and my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How would you describe your experience playing with British bands, how many have you played with so far, and where do you see yourself in the future in the landscape of British music?

It has been an amazing experience so far. Playing drums has always been my passion and I’ve always loved and enjoyed it. Through playing drums and music I’ve met some of the most amazing people who share the same passion that I have. I’ve played gigs in different places and learned a lot about music — not just playing, but the technical aspects as well like recording and producing. Oh, and getting endorsements as well…that’s another fun part!

I am currently working on different projects at the moment so it’s going to be a busy year. My band The Beautiful Game could be signing up with a UK record company very soon. We’ll be recording a few songs in the studio next week. A UK and European tour is planned at the end of the year as well.

You have always enjoyed playing the drums, and I suppose you’ll never stop. This is your greatest passion then?

Whether it’s in a small pub or a big festival, I get a huge sense of satisfaction playing the drums with other bands and in front of an audience. I also love the fact that people appreciate our music. After each gig, people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed and loved our music and my drumming. For me that is one of the most satisfying parts of being in a live band.

Well, life is not entirely all about gigs. The rest of my time is spent with my English wife Sarah, who is an artist herself and a jewelry designer. Away from the sound of drums and the excitement of band music, we make the most of being together in our home in North London.


No comments:

Post a Comment